On a hot August election night in 1967, a crowd of more than 3,000 people gathered in front of the Itawamba County Times offices.
The crowd didn’t begin to fit in the short alleyway on South Gaither Street. They spilled out onto Main Street and the courthouse square, straining their eager ears to hear the night’s election results. The men, wearing short-sleeved button-down collar shirts and sporting fedoras, sat in lawn chairs with notebooks in hand. Floral print cotton dresses and culottes were the favored attire for the women who sat alongside them.
The invitation to attend the event, first held in 1947, had been extended to every citizen in the county via the front page of the paper. They showed up in droves. It was one of the largest crowds to that date in the history of The Times election party.
Former Times owner Delmus Hardin borrowed a loudspeaker from the city, and special arrangements had been made to get the latest statewide returns as soon as they came in by radio, television and the Associated Press.
“If it can be found out, we are determined to keep the people attending our party informed as to the progress of the election reports,” The Times reported prior to the event.
The din of the crowd quieted when the intermittent music stopped and results were announced. It meant more returns had arrived and were about to be broadcast. Former precincts (later combined with larger ones) like Bigby Fork, Wiginton and Oakland were among those that were counted, sealed and then brought to the courthouse for the results to be made known.
Seldom heard nowadays, first names like Heber, Sig and Flavous were on the ballot. Results for candidates were written on blackboards hanging outside The Times office. Over the course of the long night, newspaper employees continually updated the tallies for all to see and track.
For more than seven decades, The Itawamba County Times election party was the place to be on election night. That tradition will continue this election year.
On Aug. 6, The Itawamba County Times will bring out the nostalgic blackboards and tally the results once again. Some 72 years after it began, an invitation is extended to every citizen in the county to join in the tradition.
These days, election results can be at obtained with a tap of a screen from the comforts of a lumbar-supporting recliner. But wouldn’t it be more fun to break out a lawn chair and join in on a time-honored tradition? Maybe hang out with some old friends and make some new ones?
Consider this an open invitation to all residents to join in this longstanding Itawamba County tradition. Please, join us on election night, Aug. 6, from 6 p.m. until the last ballot has been counted.
And if you have one, wear a fedora. For old times’ sake.